When it comes to web design there is something to be said for the navigation methods that designers use to facilitate the easy move from one page of content to the next. The typical mode of navigation for any website is the horizontal menu. With this method, the menu items, namely things like about me, information, pictures, and other divisions of website content are listed horizontally across the top search bar of any website. This allows for a quick and easy access to the different divisions of content within the realm of the website being browsed. This standby method is somewhat simple to set up and exceedingly simple to use from the standpoint of the browser which has made, and still makes this method a preferable menu option.
That being said, vertical menus are becoming commonplace in many website designs for several reasons, and here are some of the pro/con considerations:
Outdated? Ummm…not really.
The vertical menu is a somewhat dated method of listing and categorizing content in the realm of website design, while it does offer a concise and linear organization of these different page divisions, it often encroaches on the page space of the content being featured. With horizontal navigation menus the content divisions are neatly tucked away at the top of the screen where they do not interfere with the content that is being featured on the page. Much like widescreen television, a webpage with horizontal navigation has more room to stretch out and display content. Those sites that depend on the columnar or vertical menu have to compete with this menu for content space.
The Issue of Space Infringement
Though this competition for content space may not be felt as keenly by some website designers, from the perspective of the browser this infringement on space can be a bit distracting. This configuration, often on the left side of the screen, does not fall in line with the way that the content on the page is read making it difficult for those navigating the page to find the content that they need when they need it. Though users may eventually stumble upon the content tab that they need, it is far more likely that they will instead search for a horizontal menu bar where there is none. There is another issue to deal with concerning these vertical menu navigations, fly outs are far less useful and logical than drop down menus.
Fly Out Menus
Again, with a fly out menu it interferes with the flow of the page and with the way that the reader navigates the content being presented. When a fly out menu pops up it is generally a bit discouraging to readers and they must work quickly to access the menu item that they are interested in. With a drop down menu, the choices are centrally located and easy to access at any time. Though a vertical menu may seem innovative and incredibly unique, the simple truth is that it is simply harder to navigate and work with than a horizontal menu tool, this added complication may deter readers and may even discourage future use of the site as a result.
Chad McComsey is lead designer and co-founder of MIND Development and Design in Lancaster, PA and enjoys time with his wife Maria and dogs Buddy Winston and Mazzy when he’s not creating waycool graphics and web design.